Who’s in charge of a player’s development?

After I wrote about the growing disparity in girls basketball, I and a couple others engaged in an email discussion about my article and another similar article. One high school coach suggested that the disappearing club programs was not a problem, as most high schools run year-round programs now. The argument was that as a high school coach, he felt that his players were better off training with him during the off-season, as opposed to playing for a club team, because there is no guarantee that a club program would develop the players skills. 

This is the major contention between club coaches and high-school coaches: club coaches feel they are better, and high-school coaches feel they are better. The truth is that club and high-school coaches fit a normal bell curve: both have great coaches and terrible coaches, but most are in the middle.

Beyond the club and high-school coaches, these days there are personal trainers in the mix. With all the varying interests, who is in charge of a player’s development?

The easy answer is the player (or the player’s parents). However, is it that simple? What if a player wants to work out with a club program, but the high school team practices at the same time? If the player misses the high school practice, and alienates his or her coach, how will that affect the player’s standing on the team? If the player plays with the high school team during the off-season to keep the coach happy, and plays club basketball to get exposure, does the player have time and money to work with a personal trainer? What if the player feels the trainer provides the beat means to develop his or her skills?

I have a situation where a player texted me because she wants to elevate her skill level and athleticism to play Division 1 basketball. We started to work out several days after her season ended before her coach had thought about off-season workouts. Now that her coach has started off-season workouts, she has told the player not to work out with anyone but her.

A player has Division 1 dreams, yet her coach is telling her that working out two days per week is enough. She has D1 aspirations, but her coach feels a couple ladder drills is sufficient strength and conditioning preparation for the D1 level. Is that fair to the player? Does a coach have the power to prevent a player from paying to work with an outside trainer? Is two workouts a week enough for a player with D1 goals?

I won’t argue that I am better than the coach. However, at least in terms of strength and conditioning, her coach’s resume can’t compare. I am half-way finished with a dissertation that is centered around strength and conditioning for basketball, I have spoken at national strength and conditioning conferences, and I have been published in the Strength & Conditioning Journal. She is and always has been a basketball coach. She may or may not be a good basketball coach, but she certainly lacks the practical and theoretical experience that I have in strength and conditioning. Is it fair to a player to discourage her from working out with me (or someone else of similar qualifications)?

Who is responsible for the player’s development? If a coach is going to throw up impediments to a player’s growth, how should the player react? Should a player ignore her coach? When club and high-school practices conflict, where should a player invest his or her time? If the high school and/or club coach provides insufficient expertise in developing a player’s skills or athleticism, how should the player invest his or her time?

Basketball is a team game. However, individuals progress from level to level, not teams. How can a player fulfill his or her team obligations while also investing sufficient resources (time, energy, money) into his or her personal development to achieve his or her personal goals (which ultimately should help the team’s success)?

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